"Very unfair penalty" - Bird frustrated after Günther crash in Portland, Evans shows impressive catch-up
From seventh place back to P17: Sam Bird lost a valuable points result after the Portland E-Prix. As a result of a retrospective penalty imposed on the Briton due to an accident with Maximilian Günther, his Jaguar team is also losing ground in the world championship battle. Birthday boy Mitch Evans, on the other hand, showed an impressive recovery from 20th on the grid to 4th place in the US Formula E race.
After a tough season, Sam Bird finally looked like he might be able to put the ghosts of the past behind him in Portland. The Briton crossed the finish line in 7th position - his first points finish since finishing on the podium at the Berlin E-Prix. A few minutes after the end of the race, however, the FIA stewards took him out of the top 10 again: For causing a collision with Maximilian Günther (Maserati MSG), they handed out a 5-second time penalty to Bird, who thus slipped to 17th place.
Race accident or penalty-worthy offense?
The accident occurred on lap 28, when both drivers were battling for fourth place at turn 7. Bird pushed Günther off the track, who then ran through the grass of the run-off zone and lost several ranks. "To come off the track so close to the end and lose places is of course very annoying. But it's part of motorsport," Günther said mildly after the E-Prix. The German dropped back to ninth place in the meantime, but overtook a number of drivers again in the final laps of the race to finish sixth in the end.
"I got the best out of the situation with this. It was a good weekend overall," said Günther, who had started the race from position 5 after a solid qualifying session. "This gives us important confidence for the remaining races this season. All in all, I'm satisfied."
However, Günther's race was not entirely without incident: in an attempt to make up positions, he clashed with, of all people, his teammate Edoardo Mortara in the closing laps. In a minor contact, Günther sliced Mortara's right rear tyre with his front wing. "That was a small mistake, but it has a significant impact on our points score," team principle James Rossiter criticized briefly but clearly after the race. There was no penalty for the nudge, unlike the preceding contact between Günther and Bird.
The Briton in the Jaguar showed far less understanding for the penalty against him. "I think it's a very unfair penalty," he dishes out against the FIA in a social media post. "I just don't get a break. Honestly, today I could have been fighting for a podium. But it was one of those days where things didn't go well for me." Jaguar team principle James Barclay also expressed surprise at the penalty, saying, "We thought the scene was a racing incident."
Bird & Evans disagree on Jaguar tactics in Portland
Jaguar contested the exceedingly tactical race with its drivers flying in parallel. Mitch Evans, who celebrated his 29th birthday on race day, showed a great catch-up. A technical issue in qualifying - according to Jaguar's initial findings a power supply failure in the vehicle systems - meant that he was unable to take part in the time trials for the grid and only started the E-Prix from 20th place. As the race progressed, he worked his way into the top 5, but had to save far more energy than Bird. The latter put a lot of pressure on teammate Evans - also on the team radio - but was unable to get past the New Zealander.
"Tell him to go, man. Either I'm going or he's going. Come on!" radioed Bird on lap 29. The sobering response from his race engineer, Phil Ingram, was to go forward and look after Evans. "I've got more pace than him!" was Bird's annoyed feedback, adding a lap later, "Because I was defending from Mitch I get done by Seb (Buemi). Thanks, guys!"
16 places gained for Evans: "Executed plan pretty well"
"It was an interesting day," Evans said looking back at the race. "We had a problem after the second practice. So our day became a race against the clock to get the car back in shape. Going into the race, the team and I executed our plan pretty well: I was in second place at times and still had a lot of energy, so I thought I could finish on the podium. Fourth place is still good, and I'm glad we got something out of today."
In the Formula E drivers' standings, Evans sits in 4th position thanks to the 12 points associated with 4th place as well as the bonus point for the fastest lap. Bird slipped to 9th in the championship as a result of his fifth consecutive "zero" finish, while Jaguar also lost ground to Avalanche Andretti in the team standings. The next opportunity for the "Big Car" to make amends will be at the Rome E-Prix, which takes place on July 15/16 - traditionally a good venue for Jaguar.